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Mahatma Gandhi-Subhas Chandra Bose disagreement was based on mutual self-respect

Jan 30, 2024 08:25 AM IST

Gandhi's name will be written in golden letters in history, said Netaji in 1943 broadcast. This came four years after their disagreement at Tripuri Congress.

In the midst of the most horrific, and brutal war mankind had ever witnessed since 1939, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose arrived in Berlin, Germany. It was April 1941, and he was driven by the goal of fighting for India's liberation from British subjugation, seeking alliances with Germany, Italy, Russian and Japan.

Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.(.Wikimedia Commons)
Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.(.Wikimedia Commons)

While he prepared memorandums, met officials, negotiated with ministries seeking assistance for the formation of a 'Free Indian Government' to be set up in Berlin, one of his broadcasts on 2 October 1943 is worth recalling today, on January 30th, as he celebrated, commemorated, acknowledging Mahatma Gandhi's "place in the history of India's struggle for independence".

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Netaji's political differences with Mahatma Gandhi, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, and Sardar Patel were public knowledge, especially after the Congress session at Tripuri in 1939. Bose emerged victorious in the Presidential election on 29 January 1939, despite Gandhi’s insistence on B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya as compromise candidate.

The heated exchange of letters between the leaders was indicative of how Netaji’s action plans were making him move away from Gandhi’s dominated non-violent nationalism.

With war prolonged and Britain bombarded during the German blitz, Bose’s strategic vision was clear: "British Empire constitutes the great obstacle not only in the path of India's freedom but also in the path of human progress. Since the attitude of Indian people is intensely hostile to the British in the present war, it is possible for them to materially assist in bringing about the overthrow of Great Britain."

Mahatma Gandhi had earlier written words, which became historic as parting words between a father and son, a mentor and mentee. Gandhiji wrote to Bose, "You are irrepressible…till one of us is converted to the other's view, we must sail in different boats, though their destination may appear but only appear to be the same. Meanwhile let us love one another as remaining members of the same family that we are."

In 'Brothers Against the Raj', Leonard A Gordon observed "Gandhi was unconverted by anything Bose had to say. To him, Bose had remained a lost son."

It was this ‘lost son’ who went on air on the 75th birth anniversary of his Bapu, devoting the broadcast to "an estimation of the place of Mahatmaji in the history of India's struggle for independence. The service which Mahatma Gandhi has rendered to India and to the cause of India's freedom is so unique and unparalleled that his name will be written in letters of gold in our national history for all time."

Netaji, with his sense of history and ability to draw lessons from the past, used the broadcast to give a birds-eye view of India’s ruthless subjugation by the British East India Company and then, the British Government.

After the 1857 war of Independence, and in 1885 the formation of the Indian National Congress, Netaji recounted the rising tide of national spirit across the country.

The Rowlatt Act and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre were turning points, Netaji recounted, “after tragic events of 1919 the Indian people were stunned and paralysed for the time being. All the attempts for achieving liberty had been ruthlessly crushed by the British and their armed forces. Constitutional agitation, boycott of British goods, armed revolution - all had failed alike to bring freedom. There was not a ray of hope left and the Indian people, though their hearts were burning with indignation, were groping in the dark for a new method and a new weapon of struggle. Just at this psychological moment, Mahatma Gandhi appeared on the scene with his novel method of Non-Cooperation and Satyagraha or Civil Disobedience. It appeared as if he had been sent by Providence to show the path to liberty. Immediately and spontaneously, the entire nation rallied round his banner. Every Indian's face was now lit up with hope and confidence. Ultimate victory was once again assured.”

Netaji acknowledged the relentless energy of Gandhi as he worked for over 20 years for India’s salvation. “It is no exaggeration to say that if in 1920 he had not come forward with his weapon of struggle, India would today perhaps have still been prostrated. His services to the cause of India's freedom are unique and unparalleled. No single man could have achieved more in one single lifetime under similar circumstances,” he declared in the 1943 broadcast, archived for posterity in ‘Selected Speeches of Subhas Chandra Bose’, published by Publications Division, Government of India in 1962.

What had the Indian people learnt from the toil and sweat of Gandhi: Netaji explained highlighting two major factors. “They have, first of all, learnt national self-respect and self-confidence as a result of which revolutionary fervour is now blazing in their hearts. Secondly, they have now got a countrywide organization, which reaches the remotest villages of India. Now that the message of liberty has permeated the hearts of all Indians and they have got a countrywide political organisation representing the whole nation, the stage is set for the final struggle for liberty, the last war of independence.”

The revolutionary Netaji exhorted, “it is now possible for the Indian people to draw the sword. We are happy and proud that India's Army of Liberation has already come into existence and is steadily increasing in numbers. We have on the one hand, to complete the training of this Army and send it to the field of battle as soon as possible…The final struggle for liberty will be long and hard and we must go on fighting, till the last Britisher in India is either cast in prison or thrown out of the country. I would like to warn you that after our Army of Liberation sets foot on Indian soil, it will take at least twelve months, and perhaps more, to liberate the whole of India from the British yoke. Let us, therefore, gird up our loins and prepare for a long and hard struggle."

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